READER NOTE: In November 2020, we interviewed several Ontario main street businesses to tell their stories as they evolve their digital presence with the Digital Transformation Grant (DTG) that each received through the Digital Main Street (DMS) program.
DMS – currently funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade – provides small businesses across the province with training, grants and resources to adopt digital tools and technologies that will build business resiliency.

In this installment, we caught up with Gadabout Vintage on Toronto’s Queen Street East, two weeks into the new year.


The new year brought a new State of Emergency to Ontario and province-wide shutdowns of those businesses not deemed essential. As of mid-January, this had not extended to film and television productions and post-production projects. They continue to operate, with stringent safety measures in place.

This has been a boon for Victoria Dinnick. She operates Gadabout Vintage – one of those eclectic places where you can lose yourself for hours. Curios, nostalgia and ephemera cram every corner on two floors. Vintage posters, tons of fabulous vintage clothing and racks of accessories fight for space with amazing textiles and vintage housewares.

Renting props for film and television is a huge part of Victoria’s business. While her physical store cannot admit the general public, individuals representing film and TV can visit by appointment to select items. She recently stocked the set for an entire curio shop!

Film and television aside, keeping top of mind with the general public remains important to Gadabout. Victoria relies on her social media channels and a new online storefront, where customers can place orders for curbside pickup. This is a sharp departure from the first lockdown last spring, when Victoria was forced to shut completely and generate no revenue for three full months.

That crisis prompted Victoria to redevelop her dated website and add, for the first time, an e-commerce storefront. She turned to DMS and qualified for a Digital Transformation Grant. Equally important, she engaged with her local DMS Digital Service Squad for the practical advice and resources to manage her website and make more effective use of Instagram.

While the online side of her business is still in its infancy, Victoria sees big possibilities.

“It is growing and it does have great potential, and the more I can get product up there, the greater the possibilities will be,” she said. “Social media is keeping our awareness level really up there and giving people a good idea of what is in the store and what they can find.”

Huge surge in online traffic

Between September 1 and year end, Google Analytics reported some 6,800 website visitors, of whom almost 6,700 were new visitors. And when people come to the Gadabout site, they stick around –- Victoria’s bounce rate is only 5.4 per cent, when anything under 40 per cent is generally considered good. Thanks to her efforts to improve her search engine optimization (SEO), most of this traffic is resulting from organic search – people using search terms like “vintage clothing,” “vintage fashion” or “Toronto vintage.”

As a result, almost half of her sales are now being generated from her website or from Instagram.

The Digital Service Squad remains on call to help Victoria master the art of building audience through her Instagram account and bring that traffic to her website.

“I still need DMS because I have no one else who can help me continue my learning with digital marketing,” she said. “I am very happy that they remain available for Zoom calls. They listen and understand what I am trying to do and are really honest and helpful.”

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, Victoria has kept all of her staff employed. These days, their focus is on getting as much product as possible onto the online store. It’s a time-consuming exercise, given that most of Gadabout’s inventory is one-of-a-kind items. But thanks to DMS, Victoria can now showcase her business to a broader audience than ever before.

“I would like to congratulate the BIAs that first put DMS together,” Victoria said. “They couldn’t have foreseen the pandemic, but because of what they put in the place and the grant system, they have saved a lot of older businesses that would not have taken the leap online without that help and guidance.”

We will check in again with Gadabout for the last time in March.

Victoria’s story is just one example of how main street small businesses across Ontario have taken advantage of the Digital Main Street Ontario Initiative.

For more information, go to  





The Digital Main Street program has been further extended through funding from FedDev Ontario and the Ontario Ministry for Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade (MEDJCT). The new round of funding includes $42.5 million from the Government of Canada’s Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, a national recovery initiative delivered by Canada’s regional development agencies. With $7.45 million from Ontario, this combined federal and provincial project will strengthen Ontario’s economic capacity for innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration, and will promote the development of a strong and diversified Ontario economy. For more information, please visit


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